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Introducing MAFs: Music Acoustic Features and their Relationship to Personality

Introducing MAFs: Music Acoustic Features and their Relationship to Personality

Presenter Name:Maya Flannery

School/Affiliation:McMaster University

Co-Authors:Matthew Woolhouse


Music preference is usually investigated by associating personality factors with various attributes such as genre (e.g., Classical, Pop), musical-preference dimensions (e.g., “Reflective and Complex”, “Intense and Rebellious”), and psychological attributes (e.g., happy, sad). Although such classifications may be informative with regard to the everyday language we use to describe music, they are weak predictors of the acoustic qualities of the music we prefer. In other words, the link between personality and preference for musical styles is not specific. The present study addressed this issue with the measurement of personality factors (using the 44-item Big Five Inventory) and preference ratings of musical stimuli that were systematically varied with what we describe as Music Acoustic Features (MAFs). The manipulation of MAFs within the experiment afforded us a high degree of control over the stimuli, whilst maintaining musical ecological validity. Participants (N = 90) listened to three piano excerpts (Piece) that were varied by the MAFs Dynamic, Mode, Register, and Tempo, resulting in 48 stimuli (3x2x2x2x2). After listening to each stimulus, preference was rated on a scale from 0 (dislike) to 100 (like). Results of mixed factorial ANOVAs (personality traits as between-subject factors, MAFs as within-subject factors) showed main effects of the personality factor Agreeableness, and the MAFs Dynamic, Mode, Piece, and Tempo. Furthermore, interactions between a number of personality factors and MAFs were significant. For example, people with high Neuroticism disproportionately preferred fast tempo music. Our results establish new insights regarding the relationship between personality and specific features of music.

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